Writing is one of my life’s passions. I put my heart and soul into each and every romance novel I write, and my blog is where you’ll get the inside scoop. You’ll learn more about your favorite characters, and I’ll talk about what inspires me. And when I start working on my next novel, you’ll be the first to know.
My upcoming contemporary romance novel, Aquamarine, includes many of the characters from a previous contemporary romance novel, The Betrayal.
The Betrayal is a story of infidelity. Emily has literally caught her husband, Jesse, in the act with another woman. Jesse learned a hard lesson as a result, and he’s managed to convince Emily to give him another chance. Emily doesn’t want to give up on Jesse either, and after several weeks of marriage counseling, things are finally looking up.
In this sample we’ll join Emily as she and her friend, Megan, are about to embark on a Caribbean cruise. However, something as innocent as picking up a forgotten passport will soon have unexpected consequences.
A sample from The Betrayal
Megan pulled into Jesse’s driveway and Emily quickly hopped out.
“Wait here. I’ll only be a minute.” She ran up to the front door and rang the bell. Jesse greeted her with a smile and handed over her passport as she stepped across the threshold.
“Here you go,” he said with a smile. “Make sure you keep it in a safe place.”
“I know, I know.”
He wrapped his arms around her. “I know you’re excited, and I know you’ll have a good time, but just be careful, okay? Stay with your group when you do your off-ship excursions. The Caribbean is a beautiful place, but don’t go wandering the back roads by yourselves.”
“I know, Jesse. Don’t worry, we’ll be fine.”
He gave her a kiss and walked her out Megan’s car. “Have fun, be safe, and I love you.”
“I love you too, Jesse.”
He opened the car door and said a quick hello to Megan while Emily slid into the passenger seat. As the car slowly backed into the street he waved goodbye and went back inside. Megan was about to drive away when an older man, who was walking a dog, stepped off the curb and approached them. Emily asked Megan to wait as she rolled down her window.
“Well hello, Jorge. How have you been?”
“I’ve been good, Emily. How ’bout you? I haven’t seen you in a long time. Not since the morning you moved your things out. Is everything okay now?”
“It couldn’t be better.” She quickly introduced him to Megan, saying Jorge and his wife lived three doors down.
“Jesse and I have been working things out. My buddy and I are taking a short trip together, and when we return, I’m moving back in.”
He gave her a warm smile. “I’m glad, Emily. Marta and I have wondered about you, and we were hoping you were okay.”
“Well then, you two ladies have a safe trip, and I’ll see you when you get back.”
Once again, cover artist Wes Lowe has come up with an amazing illustration for the upcoming Marina Marindale contemporary romance novel, Aquamarine.
Aquamarine is a spin-off from an earlier Marina Martindale contemporary romance novel, The Betrayal. Seventeen-year-old Tonya Claiborne is the younger sister of Annette Claiborne. A minor character in The Betrayal, Tonya is smart, outspoken, and she has an uncanny ability to read people’s body language. We also learn that like her cousin, Emily, Tonya is an aspiring musician.
We meet an adult Tonya in Aquamarine. She’s now a promising music student whose well-to-do grandmother was helping her pay for college. But when her grandmother unexpectedly passes away, Tonya’s world turns upside down.
Aquamarine was a fun book to write, and I really liked the cast of characters. Look for Aquamarine in February, 2022.
It’s the time of year for gathering with friends and family, so I invited my good friend and fellow author, David Lee Summers, and his wife, over for dinner. David writes steampunk, science fiction, and horror, so naturally the conversation turned to fiction writing, and famous fictional characters. We got to talking about Star Wars.
I love Star Wars. I saw the first one on the big screen a few weeks after it premiered, and it was amazing. To me, it was sort of like a sci-fi version of Camelot, complete with knights, a princess, and an evil wizard. What made the story work was the characters. We talked about how well all the characters were thought out and developed. Then came the prequels. (Not bad. Not great, but not bad.) After that came Disney. Ugh! Suffice to say the rest of the conversation was about the importance of character arcs and consistency in storytelling.
So, what can I say? Some people get together and discuss sports, current events, or politics. Get storytellers together, and we’ll sit around and analyze famous, iconic characters, and talk about what makes them work. Our inspiration often comes from other storytellers.
Tonya Claiborne was first introduced in my earlier contemporary romance novel, The Betrayal.She was the seventeen-year-old sister of Annette Claiborne, one of the antagonists, and I created her almost as an afterthought. Like her cousin, Emily, Tonya is an aspiring musician. She also has another talent; reading people’s body language.
While only a minor character in The Betrayal, Tonya nonetheless had a significant role. We’ll meet an adult Tonya in Aquamarine. A music major at The University of North Texas, Tonya looks forward to graduating the following year. She’s also in love with Evan, and they plan to marry once they graduate. However, things don’t always go as planned, and Tonya’s life is about to change in ways she could have never imagined.
Tonya is a purely fictional character. However, in my own life’s journey I’ve run across a few rare individuals who excelled at reading body language, and I was amazed at how accurately they perceived other people. It’s a skill I would have liked to have had myself.
My latest contemporary romance novel is off to the editor. It’s the first book I’ve written since the pandemic started. The pandemic, particularly the lockdowns, took a terrible toll on creative people.
For most of 2020 I was simply unable to write, so I decided to go back and give my earlier novels a read, hoping it would motivate me. When I got to The Betrayal, I rediscovered a minor character with a lot of potential. Not only was she strong enough to become a lead character, she was also strong enough to motivate me to start writing again.
My story is Covid free. In fact, all my future contemporary romance novels will be Covid free. I did a little research on the topic. People do not want want to see Covid included in movies or television shows, so I highly doubt they want to read about it in novels. Very few novels were ever written about the Spanish Flu, and most were written a generation later, in the nineteen-thirties. They all ended up in the dustbin of history. I recently beta read a fellow author’s manuscript. His next novel is Covid free as well, so I think I may be onto something here.
I did, however, get a little stuck on the title. It was originally going to be called The Diversion. Then, as often happens, once I started writing, and the characters came to life, the story went in a different, and better, direction. The Diversion, however, no longer made sense as a title. The lead characters are both musicians, and each has written a song. One song is called, Aquamarine. The other is The White Rose. While the songs may be fictitious, either title would make a dandy title for the book. If only I could decide which one to use.
So, when in doubt, let the readers decide. I took a poll in my newsletter. It resulted in a tie. Ugh! So, now it’s time to ask the Magic 8 ball, which in Internet land, is a random name picker.
And the winner is… Aquamarine. It will be available in early 2022.
P.S. If you’d like to sign up for my newsletter, simply scroll down to the bottom of the post and you’ll find a sign up form. Each month I giveaway a free book.
This article was originally posted in February, 2019 on another blog.
The other day I learned an old family friend had passed away. She and her husband were close friends with my parents, and she was the last one standing. To protect her identity, I’m calling her Jane.
My parents, along with Jane and her husband, were quite the foursome. Friendships like theirs are rare. Jane and her husband were frequent guests in our home while I was growing up. To me, they were sort of like extended family.
I rarely saw Jane once I became an adult, but she and my mother were the epitome of best friends for the remainder of my mother’s life. So when I heard she had finally passed away, I immediately looked up her obituary. It included a photo, taken decades ago. Jane wasn’t overly pretty, but she was nonetheless an attractive woman, and surprisingly photogenic.
Her obituary began the usual way. When and where she was born, her parents, grandparents, siblings, and her marriage. There was also a mention of her being a cub scout den mother. From there her story took an odd twist. Instead of saying she was a full time mom and homemaker, which she was, it listed all of the country clubs she and her husband had belonged to. It ended by stating she had spent her entire adult life playing bridge every day at the country club.
Don’t get me wrong. I’ve always had a great deal of respect for stay-at-home moms. I also believe we should make time to do the things we enjoy doing. It helps bring meaning and balance in our lives. However, I also think there’s a whole lot more to life than playing cards every day at the country club. Jane may have led a charmed life, but I can’t help but wonder if she was truly happy.
In my humble opinion, life isn’t about focusing entirely on oneself. It’s what we do for others that gives our lives purpose and meaning. For me, it’s writing romance novels for people to enjoy while taking break from their troubles. My biggest joy is visualizing people reading and enjoying my books as I write them. This is what gives my life purpose. For someone else it may be providing for their family, or serving their community.
We all have a purpose in life, regardless of our occupation or social status, and that purpose is serving others and doing what we can to help make someone else’s life a little better. How we go about doing this is entirely up to us, and in the end, I think most of us want to be remembered for doing something meaningful. I know I certainly do.
This past fall has been brutal. I lost a very dear friend, and one of my favorite people on the planet.
Bobby was a jazz musician in Tucson, who I first met in 2012. He was part of a band which had a regular Sunday night gig at venue called Monterey Court. Cynthia, my editor, was a tenant at Monterey Court at the time, so I was a regular there myself. Every Sunday night she and I hung out and listened to live jazz. It was a happy time.
As I got to know Bobby, and the other musicians he performed with, I began to realize there was something special about him. He was a good soul, and people like him are rare. I soon found out he enjoyed reading, so I gave him a copy of one of my Luke and Jenny books. (Which I wrote as Gayle Martin.) He loved it, so now we were more than friends. We were mutual fans.
I soon became a regular at his other gigs. I also got to know his family, and we even did a little traveling together. Bobby introduced me to some of his other friends, many of whom became some of my closest friends too.
Bobby may not have been into romance novels, but he was nonetheless very supportive of me as an author. He was always the first person to open my newsletters, and he always read my Facebook posts. In fact, he used to joke about stalking me on Facebook.
Unfortunately, Bobby was a smoker, and from what I understand, nicotine is a very difficult addiction to break. He was diagnosed with cancer after I moved to New Mexico, and he passed away in late August. I went back to Tucson to attend his funeral, and I couldn’t get over how many other people attended as well. He was well loved by many, and he will most certainly be missed by all who knew him.
Writing novels is an interesting profession, to say the least. I’m often asked how I come up with my ideas. Typically, it happens when I’m busy doing something else.
So here I am, busy doing something else
Let’s say I’m busy baking cookies. My mind wanders as I’m mixing the dough. I may be reminiscing about something from my past. Or maybe I’m recalling an interesting story a friend once told me. Whatever it is, my mind is relaxed. Then, all of a sudden, aha! The light comes on and I’m thinking, “Dang, this could be a really good idea for a book.”
Next stop–the back burner
So an idea just came to me out of the blue. Now I have to figure out if it’s a good idea, or a bad idea. I’ll spend days, maybe longer, mulling it around. I’ll play out a few scenes in my head and come up with some ideas for characters. In other words, I’m playing a grown up version of Let’s Pretend. Then, once I have something I think will work, I start putting pen to paper.
Writing the treatment
I wrote detailed treatments for my first few contemporary romance novels, such as The Reunion. It’s a common practice in the writing profession. A treatment is a summary of the story we plan to write. I used mine to describe how I would begin, and end my story and summarize my idea for the middle. Typically, my treatments were about a page and a half long. Once it was finished I set it aside and didn’t look at it again. I knew my beginning and my ending. It was time for me to start working on the story itself.
My adventures with my imaginary friends
Every fiction writer I know experiences this phenomenon. Our characters turn into real people. Or at least they do to us. Each has his or her own unique personality. That is, unless you write science fiction of fantasy. Then your characters may become real aliens or dragons in your head. However, I write contemporary romance. My characters are mostly human with the exception of a few dogs or horses, and the dogs and horses also have distinct personalities.
It’s an interesting symbiotic relationship. Not only are the characters living, breathing people, at least to me, they also come and talk to me. Not verbally. I don’t hear voices in my head. Instead, they define themselves as I get deeper into the story. A good example would be Jeremy Palmer, a supporting character in The Reunion. Jeremy was intended to be a rogue character who would do his dirty deed and disappear from the story. However, he was also a lead character’s son, and as Ian came to life I realized he could never have such an evil offspring. So Jeremy went from rouge villain to a rival who competes with his father to win Gillian’s affections.
Once the story is complete
Once my story was complete I’d go back and reread my treatment. I was always surprised at how much the final story differed from the original treatment. It was like night and day, and it always came out better than originally planned.
Nowadays I do things a little differently. I may write down my beginning and ending, with a sentence or two describing what may or may not happen in the middle. In others words, I’m doing less preplanning and more flying by the seat of my pants writing. (Many authors do the latter.) Even so, I’ll still have scenes in mind that never come to fruition. They may have played out nicely in my head, but they just didn’t work on paper. Other times a character never appears because another character came out better than expected and took over the role. It happens all the time. My writing process is fluid. If something different works better than expected I’ll go with it.
I really love my job. I get to go on adventures with my imaginary friends, and once my story is published, you get to come along too.
Everyone who writes fiction understands how our characters seem to come to life as we’re writing. We start out with an idea of who we want them be, but before long, they’re telling us who they really are. It’s what makes novel writing fun. For me, it usually happens with antagonists. Some, like Craig in The Stalker, come out much darker than planned. Others, like Cal in The Scandal, love their bad boy image. Deep down, however, they have good hearts.
Now just so you know, they don’t communicate verbally. There are no voices in my head. I think the best way to describe it would be to say they take control of my fingers as I type. Especially when I’m writing dialog. The conversation just flows out of my keyboard as I watch their personalities come through. It feels almost as if I’m channeling a real person from a different dimension. Of course, that’s not literally happening. I’m tapping into the part of my psyche where imagination lies, and what fascinates me the most is how the characters evolve into people who are entirely different than what my conscience mind had envisioned.
The other day I read an article about the classic John Steinbeck novel, The Grapes of Wrath. Along with a synopsis of the story, it went on to describe the various symbolic meanings throughout about the book. Some authors like to use fiction as a metaphor, and there were certainly political undertones in Steinbeck’s work. However, not all fiction writers do this. What I find amusing, however, is when people think there is a hidden meaning in a story when, in fact, there isn’t.
Sometimes blue simply means blue
I recall a meme on social media poking fun at how people assume authors always include hidden meanings in their work. It talked about an author mentioning blue curtains because blue symbolized blah, blah, blah. The punchline, however, was that the author simply liked blue. There was no hidden meaning.
I don’t include a lot of symbolism in my work. My genre, contemporary romance, is pretty straightforward. Boy meets girl. They fall in love, but they have obstacles to overcome before they can get to happily ever after. However, there are no political undertones or hidden messages in my stories. My sole purpose is to entertain the reader. That said, it doesn’t mean I don’t enjoy a little fun from time to time.
Okay, maybe just a little, but not too often
In The Deception, Scott is a married man who presents himself as a single man to unsuspecting single women. Early in the story he takes Carrie out for a drive, so I made his car a Chevy. No hidden meaning there. Chevrolet is a popular make of car. But then, just for laughs, I described it as being bright red, to represent Scott’s infidelity. Yes, it was a veiled reference to The Scarlet Letter, and yes, it was a little corny. Sometimes I can’t resist having a little fun.
On a more serious note, those who know me in real life know I’m a very spiritual person. I also happen to know people who’ve had what they believe to be angelic encounters. My father was one of them. So, in two of my novels, a character has what some might interpret as an angelic encounter. The reason I’m emphasizing the word might is because not everyone believes in a higher power. Therefore, I wrote those scenes in such a way that readers could also interpret them as a character interacting with a compassionate stranger. I’ve left it to the readers to decide for themselves. The above mentioned is all the symbolism I’ve used so far. I guess I’m more of a what you see is what you get kind of storyteller.
We’re all unique individuals. No two people see the same thing the exact same way. It’s all subject to our own life’s experiences. However, before jumping to conclusions about hidden meanings in a story, particularly if it’s something negative, remember what I said before. Maybe the author brought up the blue curtains simply because it’s the author’s favorite color.